Taurine is an amino acid, one of the building blocks of proteins. Found in the nervous system and muscles, taurine is one of the most abundant amino acids in the body. It is thought to help regulate heartbeat, maintain cell membranes, and affect the release of neurotransmitters (chemicals that carry signals between nerve cells) in the brain.
There is no dietary requirement for taurine, since the body can make it out of vitamin B 6 and the amino acids methionine and cysteine. Deficiencies occasionally occur in vegetarians, whose diets may not provide the building blocks for making taurine.
People with diabetes have lower-than-average blood levels of taurine, but whether this means they should take extra taurine is unclear.
Meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, and fish are good sources of taurine. Legumes and nuts don't contain taurine, but they do contain methionine and cysteine.
Preliminary evidence suggests that taurine might be helpful in congestive heart failure (CHF), a condition in which the heart has trouble pumping blood, which leads to fluid accumulating in the legs and lungs. 1Warning : Keep in mind that CHF is too serious for self-treatment. If you're interested in trying taurine or any other supplement for CHF, you should first consult your doctor.
Taurine has additionally been proposed as a treatment for numerous other conditions, including alcoholism , cataracts , diabetes , epilepsy , gallbladder disease , hypertension , multiple sclerosis , psoriasis , and stroke , but the evidence for these uses is weak and, in some cases, contradictory. 3-7 Taurine is also sometimes combined in an "amino acid cocktail" with other amino acids for treatment of attention deficit disorder , but there is no evidence as yet that it works for this purpose.
Congestive Heart Failure
Several studies (primarily by one research group) suggest that taurine may be useful for congestive heart failure . For example, in one double-blind, placebo-controlled trial , 58 people with CHF took either placebo or 2 g of taurine 3 times daily for 4 weeks. 8 Then the groups were switched. During taurine treatment, the study participants showed highly significant improvement in breathlessness, heart palpitations, fluid buildup, and heart x-ray, as well as standard scales of heart failure severity. Animal research as well as small blinded or open studies in humans have also found positive effects. 9-13 Interestingly, one very small study compared taurine with another supplement commonly used for congestive heart failure, coenzyme Q 10 . The results suggest that taurine is more effective. 14
There are several viruses that can cause acute viral hepatitis , a disabling and sometimes dangerous infection of the liver. The most common are hepatitis A and B, although there are others (with such imaginative names as C and D).
One double-blind study suggests that taurine supplements might be useful for acute viral hepatitis. In this double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 63 people with hepatitis were given either 12 g of taurine daily or placebo. 15 (The report does not state what type of viral hepatitis they had.) According to blood tests, the taurine group experienced significant improvements in liver function as compared to the placebo group.
Acute hepatitis can also develop into a long-lasting or permanent condition known as chronic hepatitis. One small double-blind study suggests that taurine does not help chronic hepatitis. 16 For this purpose, the herb milk thistle may be better.
As an amino acid found in food, taurine is thought to be quite safe. There is strong evidence that taurine is safe at levels up to 3 g per day, although higher dosages have been tested without apparent adverse effects. 17 However, maximum safe dosages of taurine supplements for children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease have not been determined.
As with any supplement taken in multigram doses, it is important to purchase a reputable product, because a contaminant present even in small percentages could add up to a real problem.
3. Yamori Y, Horie R, Nara Y, Kihara M, Tada M. Studies on stroke prevention in animal models, and their supportable epidemiological evidence. As cited in H Barnett, et al, eds. Cerebrovascular diseases: new trends in surgical and medical aspects. Amsterdam: Elsevier/North Holland, 1981:47-62.
4. Franconi F, Bennardini F, Mattana A, et al. Plasma and platelet taurine are reduced in subjects with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus: Effects of taurine supplementation. Am J Clin Nutr . 1995;61:1115-1119.
5. Marchesi GF, Quattrini A, Scarpino O, et al. Therapeutic effects of taurine in epilepsy: a clinical and polyphysiographic study [in Italian; English abstract]. Riv Patol Nerv Ment . 1975;96:166-184.
13. Azuma J, Takihara K, Awata N, et al. Beneficial effect of taurine on congestive heart failure induced by chronic aortic regurgitation in rabbits. Res Commun Chem Pathol Pharmacol. 1984;45:261-270.
Last reviewed September 2014 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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